The article below contains adult content.
Naked in a museum, holding a baby in her arms; on the Düsseldorf tramway, wearing nothing but the names of clothing items painted onto her skin; taking nude selfies at the Trocadéro in Paris; or having random pedestrians feel her most intimate parts inside of a Mirror Box; 33-year-old performance artist and muse Milo Moiré bares it all for her staged happenings. With PlopEgg #1 - A Birth of a Picture (2014), she stole exhibitors' thunder at the Art Cologne fair, 'laying' paint-filled eggs from her vagina onto a white canvas situated at the fair's entrance. It was, for better or worse, unforgettable.
Moiré says she uses nudity as a vehicle for equality, and her sex as an original source for creating. Still, she sells 'uncensored' photos and videos of her work through her website, Unlimited Muse. Recently, Moiré, who studied psychology in college, posed in front of the Cologne cathedral holding a sign saying "Respect us! We are not fair game even when naked!" Her not-so subtle artistic contribution, a reaction to the offenses made against women this year in the city—31 suspects, including 18 asylum-seekers, are now under investigation for sexual assualt—did little to mollify the debate surrounding welcoming refugees to the prudish North Rhine-Westphalia region.
So, are these performances a sense of commercialized exhibitionism, an act of subversion and provocation, or maybe just the artist's own "off-center" feminism? Is it art or prostitution? The Creators Project met up with Moiré to find out.
The Creators Project: What's the secret to not getting sick after your performances?
Milo Moiré: Nothing special—I often get sick. As you know, I make most of my performances in Cologne and Düsseldorf, not really the hottest cities in Europe. When I am naked, I concentrate hard so that the cold will not spoil my performance. I try to get my body under control.
When you got caught in Paris at the Trocadéro, you experienced a certain kind of policing.
I spent 15 hours in custody. For the first time in my life, I was incarcerated and had to face the law in such an abrupt way. It was cold; the cell was small and dirty. And yet, I did not want to sleep. I wanted to deeply experience this moment of imprisonment. The paradox was that I was deprived of my liberty for having used my body the way I wanted to.
Yet, if you had been in another country, it could have turned out differently.
Of course, and I actually refused to do a performance last year in Miami because I knew I could have been barred from the US if I got caught.
The French law says, "Deliberate indecent exposure in a public place shall be liable to a one-year prison term and a 15,000-euro fine."
But this exposure is not forbidden in Germany or Switzerland. Look, I'm not questioning the legal boundaries of our Western societies, which are, in my mind, not the worst, concerning nudity. I'm not even questioning the common morality. I am just celebrating art by living and using my body the way I want to. The public dimension is fundamental in my conceptual approach and I want it to be as democratic and open as possible. I want it to be naturally displayed to everyone, not to a limited number of clients of galleries and other newly opened art institutions. Moreover, men hold the contemporary art world's majority. I want to express myself to the greatest number of people. This is why the reality and universal dimension of a public space or a street are essential to me.
You studied psychology. Does it influence your work as an artist?
Thanks to cognitive psychology, I learned how to analyze through scientific methods and rigor, without any moral judgment and out of any notion of good and evil. Today, I use this neutrality in my art. I use it in order to create a global experience, as a universalist thinking that I would like to share with the greatest number of people. I graduated in psychology but I consider myself a humanist artist. Same thing for politics: I feel I am a feminist because I believe in equality between men and women, for instance, but I am not aiming at women only. I'm aiming at both men and women in my work as an artist. My work is full of such messages. Still, these messages will never prevail over my action. Above all, this action, this gesture has to be free.
How do people react in front of your performances?
Indignation, misunderstanding, questioning. Many people ignore me, some enjoy the spectacle, and others laugh. At the Trocadéro, for the Naked Selfies, the most violent reactions came from the Eiffel Tower sellers who got really aggressive towards me.
Your stand in front of the cathedral in Cologne, after the New Year's Eve attacks, was quite surprising. As the migrant crisis is tearing Europe apart, your performance in early 2016 seems aimed at inflaming the debate.
After these assaults, the mayor of Cologne, Henriette Reker, and the police representatives told women to keep a certain distance from unknown men. An 'arms-length' away from men, if I remember well. But let's be honest, in this story, like in many others, the women are not guilty. We did not do anything wrong. There is no objective reason why we should feel guilty, and I think that, actually, my performance was supporting this precise idea.
I am not taking part in any ideological debate. The messages "We did not do anything wrong," "We are not 'fair game,'" are beyond politics. What I see is a work of art, half-performance, half-media stunt. A new way of expressing, between direct action and the experience of going viral. And, what about the risk of being instrumentalized? Well, I am the daughter of immigrants, too, you know. But the high number of migrants arriving makes our integration even more difficult. Really. There is a real crisis, and some of the rights acquired here should not be threatened because of the arrival of new populations who are less used to our individual rights. From this point of view, I stay quite vigilant.
To learn more about the life and work of Milo Moiré, visit her website [link NSFW].